Samantha P.

$1,000 Education Scholarship Award Winner

I was lucky enough to be born into the Mohawk culture. Not only was it prevalent throughout my childhood, but so was the love of reading and writing. My mother would read to my brother and I stories in English. After we heard these tales of far away lands, dragons, and princes, my brother and I would listen to stories of our people, the Mohawks, from our father.

I attended an elementary school where the Mohawk culture was integrated into the school system. We had our basic math courses and English courses but also had Mohawk class where we would learn the language and culture. In sixth grade I “graduated” from my elementary school on the reservation and attended a local high school off of the reserve.

In Akwesasne, the reservation where I live, there are elementary schools where Mohawk is the primary focus. The basic classes are still taught, however, it is all spoken in Mohawk. In middle school, students leave the Mohawk based schools to attend high school just like everyone else. One such student was in my English class. He struggled to read the stories aloud and to himself. Other students teased him and belittled him. At the time I didn’t understand how someone could hate reading and writing. I now realize he didn’t hate reading and writing, he was afraid of it.

I wish to become an English teacher because I want to ease the transition for my Mohawk students coming out of the Mohawk based schools. I want them embrace reading and writing and instill the love of it that is instilled in me. I want to incorporate traditional Mohawk stories like “The Creation Story” with classics like “Romeo and Juliet.” I want my students to realize that the world is bigger than our reservation. You have to be able to represent yourself and communicate well with others in order to be taken seriously. I want my students to be chameleons and blend into the world of the Mohawk culture and the English world that surrounds them.

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